|The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission took action Friday to prohibit the import of hunter-harvested deer and elk carcasses, except for boned meat or processed cuts of meat, hides, and heads that have no part of the spinal column or brain attached.
The Commission also took emergency action to temporarily ban the importation of live deer and elk into Oregon because of the growing risk of chronic wasting disease to wild herds.
The temporary rule takes effect immediately and will last for six months. The Commission also expressed plans to enter into permanent rule making. The temporary rule allows time for further study and coordination to occur with other agencies, game ranchers, the agricultural industry and the public.
The seven-member Commission is the rule-making body for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The panel meets monthly to set policy and adopt administrative rules.
Friday's emergency action was made in response to a petition submitted by a coalition of hunting, conservation and animal rights organizations calling itself the 'MADElk Coalition.' The petition, filed in June, called for the immediate ban on the import of live elk.
However, the Commission chose to expand the temporary rules to include all live deer, elk and other ungulate species, with the exception of reindeer, and to restrict the import of carcasses. The decision in favor of the expanded language came after presentations and testimony by Andrew Clark, state veterinarian for the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Don Whittaker, ODFW wildlife biologist, who returned Thursday from a national conference on chronic wasting disease. Both Clark and Whittaker summarized the growing research on chronic wasting disease (CWD), which suggests that much remains unknown about its transmission and that prevention is the best treatment method.
CWD is found in free-ranging and captive mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The untreatable disease leads to progressive loss of body condition, behavioral changes, excessive salivation and death. In the later stages, small holes in the brain tissue of affected animals are visible with a microscope, producing a spongy look characteristic of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Similar TSE diseases exist in domestic sheep (scrapie), cattle (bovine TSE or mad cow disease), and humans (Crueutzfeldt-Jakob disease).
Researchers believe an abnormal type of prion protein serves as the disease agent, but the origin and transmission of CWD are not clearly defined. No live animal test exists for elk. A newly developed live animal test for mule deer is not feasible for use in large wild populations.
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